Sea turtle at Maho Bay in St. John USVI

Ultimate St John Snorkeling Guide: Everything You Need to Know on All the Top Sites

Last updated Apr 23, 2022 | Outdoor, St. John

Planning a trip to St John in the U.S. Virgin Islands? If you are, snorkeling on this beautiful island is a MUST-DO! Before our trip, I researched a ton trying to find all the top St John snorkeling spots.

However, there was not a lot of information out there, so I decided to provide a resource detailing all the nitty-gritty details of the 11 snorkeling spots we discovered all over the island. Please read on to figure out what snorkeling spots are worth it, and what are not.

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St John Snorkeling Rating System

To help differentiate between all of the St John snorkeling spots, I have created a rating system to help you decide which ones to try out. Please see the key below.

Snorkel rating key

Snorkel rating key

Map of St John Snorkeling Sites

Here is a map of all 11 snorkeling sites we discovered during our 1-week exploration of St John USVI. Read on to find all the details of each snorkeling spot we visited. 

The Top St. John Snorkeling Sites

St John Snorkeling Sites

01- St John Snorkeling Spot: Salt Pond Bay 

SNORKEL RATING

3 out of 5 snorkel icons

HOW TO GET THERE

If you are coming from Coral Bay on Centerline Road, take a left on Route 107 and follow it down PAST Concordia. When we first visited, we accidentally drove into the Concordia Resort. Once you pass Concordia, the road will turn sharply right and the dirt parking lot will be on the left. 

The parking lot fills up quickly! We went twice to Salt Pond Bay: once around 9:30 am (only 1 other car there) and once around 12 pm (the parking lot was full and we had to wait for a spot to open up). 

After you park, walk down a dirt uneven path for about 7 minutes until you reach a beautiful crescent-shaped beach with gorgeous clear water. Wear proper footwear. We wore dive booties and then just slipped on our fins at the beach. 

Also, there is no shade along the dirt path and and the beach. You are exposed to the full sun. Bring a hat, wear a sun shirt and sunscreen, and bring plenty of water. 

Salt Pond Bay Parking Lot

Salt Pond Bay parking lot 

Salt Pond Bay Trail

Salt Pond Bay Trail

Salt Pond Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Salt Pond Bay Beach

WHERE TO SNORKEL 

The best snorkeling is on the right side along the rocks as you face the water. The water is usually calm. There is also great snorkeling along the first set of jagged rocks out in the middle. If you decide to make the long swim out there, be SUPER CAREFUL because there is boat traffic. There is also more current, so you need to be a strong swimmer. 

Map of where to snorkel at Salt Pond Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Salt Pond Bay Beach 

ENTRY

Entry into the water is easy.  The water is shallow and has a sandy bottom. 

MARINE LIFE WE SAW

One of the highlights was seeing a shoal (family) of squid along the rocks on the right side. There is also plenty of colorful coral. We also saw a moon jellyfish, but it was easy to navigate around. Although we did not see any turtles and stingrays, they are often spotted due to the presence of seagrass beds.  

Squid at Salt Pond Bay in St. John USVI

Squid at Salt Pond Bay in St John USVI

Gorgeous yellow coral at Salt Pond Bay in St. John USVI

Brightly-colored coral at Salt Pond Bay in St John USVI

DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

2 hours

02- St John Snorkeling Spot: Waterlemon Cay

SNORKEL RATING

4 out of 5 snorkel icon

HOW TO GET THERE

Put in Annaberg Sugar Plantation in GoogleMaps. The trailhead to Waterlemon Cay is at the coastline right near the parking lot. 

Waterlemon Cay Parking Lot

Waterlemon Cay parking lot

Waterlemon Cay Entrance Sign

Waterlemon Cay entrance sign

The entry point to snorkel over to Waterlemon Cay requires an easy 20-minute hike on the Leinster Bay Trail through some trees and then along the rocky coastline. I would highly advise wearing tennis shoes or water shoes since you are navigating over rocks and a dirt path.  

Waterlemon Cay walking trail in St. John USVI

Waterlemon Cay hike leads you through a short section of forest in the beginning

Walking along the rocky trail to Waterlemon Cay in St. John USVI

And then the trail dumps you on the rocky coastline for the remainder of the hike

Waterlemon Cay in St. John USVI

Entry point to Waterlemon Cay 

WHERE TO SNORKEL 

You have 2 options:

1. You can swim from the sandy beach out to the Cay, which is quite a long swim. There are boats that dock in the bay, so it can be dangerous if you try to navigate around them. If you attempt this swim, you will snorkel over seagrass beds where you may see some turtles, rays, and starfish. 

2. The other option is to keep walking past the sandy beach to the far edge of the beach where the coastline becomes rocky again. This is the closest entry point to get to Waterlemon Cay, which is the route we chose. Do not overestimate your swimming ability. The currents can be strong. I always wear a snorkel vest in case I get tired. It is advised to swim counter-clockwise around the Cay, but we swam clockwise without a problem. It all depends on the winds and current.

Map of where to snorkel at the Waterlemon Cay in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Waterlemon Cay

ENTRY

There are a lot of sea urchins! Please be careful as you navigate into the water. I like to wear dive booties with my snorkeling fins to offer a little more protection.  

MARINE LIFE WE SAW

We saw a lot of beautiful coral and sea fans, shoal of squid, two nurse sharks, and many beautiful tropical fish. The western part of Waterlemon Cay is where we saw the two nurse sharks relaxing at the bottom of the reef. Be aware the far side of the Cay can have strong currents. 

French angelfish at Waterlemon Cay St. John USVI

French Angelfish at Waterlemon Cay, St John USVI

Nurse shark at Waterlemon Cay in St. John USVI

Nurse shark at Waterlemon Cay in St John USVI

French grunt at Waterlemon Cay St John USVI

French grunt at Waterlemon Cay, St John USVI

Squid family at Waterlemon Cay St. John USVI

Squid family at Waterlemon Cay, St John USVI

DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

1.5 hours

03- St John Snorkeling Spot: Maho Bay Beach

SNORKEL RATING

3 out of 5 snorkel icons

HOW TO GET THERE

Maho Bay Beach is quite easy to access. It is located right off of North Shore Road. You can park in the large lot located directly across from the eastern side of the beach. Alternatively, there is limited parking right along the road itself. Parking spots fill up quickly, so get there early! 

Maho Bay beach parking lot

Maho Bay Beach parking lot

Maho Bay beach in St. John USVI

Maho Bay Beach

WHERE TO SNORKEL 

Snorkel in the middle of the bay (but more towards the right) to see turtles and rays hanging out in the seagrass. There are patches of reef on both the right and left sides of the bay, but the right side (as you face the water) is supposed to be better.

Map of where to snorkel at the Maho Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Maho Bay Beach

ENTRY

The beach has a sandy bottom and an easy shallow entry. 

MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

We saw a few turtles in the middle of the bay where the seagrass beds are located. We saw patches of coral and beautiful tropical fish as we snorkeled on the right side of the bay. My husband who has an amazing eagle eye even spotted a yellowline arrow crab. 

Turtle coming up for air at Maho Bay in St. John USVI

Close up of sea turtle at Maho Bay in St John USVI

Yellowline arrow crab at Maho Bay in St. John USVI

Yellowline arrow crab at Maho Bay in St John USVI

Beaugregory Damselfish at Maho Bay in St. John looking at me

Beaugregory Damselfish at Maho Bay in St John looking right at me

DURATION OF SNORKELING 

1 hour

04- St John Snorkeling Spot: Haulover Bay North

SNORKEL RATING

4 out of 5 snorkel icon

HOW TO GET THERE 

This top-notch snorkeling spot is easy to access. It is located on the eastern end of the island along East End Road right past a sign that states you are leaving the Virgin Islands National Park. Park on your left at the bottom of the hill. There are not many spots. I would advise starting this adventure early in the morning. We went around 9 am and had no problem. 

Haulover Bay North parking

Haulover Bay North parking

Haulover Bay North sign

Haulover Bay North sign 

On your left, you will notice a path through the woods that will lead you to Haulover Bay North. A quick 5-minute walk and you are there! 

Haulover Bay North entrance to trail

Haulover Bay Noth trail entrance 

Haulover Bay North trail in St. John USVI

Haulover Bay North short 5-minute trail  

Halouver Bay North in St. John USVI

Haulover Bay North 

WHERE TO SNORKEL

The best snorkeling is on the western side of the bay (left side of the bay as you face the water). 

Be aware this area is subject to strong currents and winds, so use your judgment before proceeding into the water. 

Map of where to snorkel at the Haulover Bay North in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Haulover Bay North 

ENTRY

Entry can be a little tricky due to the cobblestone beach, sargassum (seaweed), and sea urchins. I would strongly consider wearing dive booties with your snorkeling fins. Find the part where the sandy bottom meets the shore to allow for easier entry. 

MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

We saw many schools of fish, numerous soft and hard coral outcroppings, a stingray, and gorgeous gigantic waving purple sea fans.  

Snorkeling with schools of blue tang at Haulover Bay North in St. John USVI

Snorkeling with schools of blue tang at Haulover Bay North in St John USVI

Beautiful coral at Haulover Bay North in St. John USVI

Beautiful coral at Haulover Bay North in St John USVI

Stingray at Haulover Bay North in St. John USVI

Stingray at Haulover Bay North in St John USVI

DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

1.5 hours

05- St John Snorkeling Spot: Hansen Bay Beach

SNORKEL RATING

3 out of 5 snorkel icons

HOW TO GET THERE

This is yet another very accessible St John USVI beach. It is located off of East End Road just past Haulover Bay on the right. There’s plenty of parking. Thalia, the owner of the land in front of the beach, very kindly upkeeps the beach through donations. She also provides chairs, portable bathrooms, kayaks, and paddleboards.  

Hansen Bay Beach parking in St. John USVI

Hansen Bay Beach parking area

Hansen Bay beach

Hansen Bay Beach

Hansen Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Clear waters at Hansen Bay Beach

WHERE TO SNORKEL 

We snorkeled to the left (as you face the water) across the small bay to the larger patch reef.

Map of where to snorkel at Hansen Bay in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Hansen Bay 

ENTRY

Access is easy with a shallow sandy entry. 

MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

We saw several turtles in the seagrass beds. When we snorkeled to the left of Hansen Bay, there were plenty of tropical fish, coral outcroppings, and some larger Jacks. 

Turtle and a remora fish at Hansen Bay in St. John USVI

Turtle and a remora (suckerfish) at Hansen Bay in St. John USVI

DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

1.5 hours 

06- St John Snorkeling Spot: Trunk Bay Beach

SNORKEL RATING

2 out of 5 snorkel icons

HOW TO GET THERE 

Trunk Bay Beach has a large parking lot right off North Shore Road, however, get there early because spaces fill up quickly! We arrived around 10 am, and there were only a handful of parking spaces left. Once you arrive, proceed to the entrance and pay the nominal $5 fee per person. A short walk later, and you will be witness to one of the most beautiful island beaches in the world! 

Trunk Bay Beach entrance

Trunk Bay Beach entrance

Trunk Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Trunk Bay Beach

WHERE TO SNORKEL

There is an underwater snorkeling trail along the Cay, which requires a short swim out from the beach. There are more fish and coral on the calmer western side of the Cay (which is the left side as you face the water). 

Map of where to snorkel at the Trunk Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Trunk Bay Beach. The satellite view was too cloudy, so I included this map instead.

ENTRY

Access is easy due to the shallow entry and sandy bottom.

MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

There are some beautiful tropical fish and coral outcroppings; however, I would not consider this a top snorkeling spot. Go for the beach and not the snorkeling. Also, expect much more snorkeling fins in your face because of the increased crowds. I cannot emphasize enough about getting here early to avoid the peak crowds. 

Snorkeling at Trunk Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Snorkeling at Trunk Bay Beach in St John USVI

Swimming at Trunk Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Trunk Bay Beach is worth it for the swimming but not the snorkeling!

DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

1 hour

LEARN MORE: Check out my complete guide to Trunk Bay Beach if you are planning to spend a day there.

07- St John Snorkeling Spot: Cinnamon Bay Beach

SNORKEL RATING 

3 out of 5 snorkel icons

HOW TO GET THERE 

Cinnamon Bay Beach is one of several gorgeous beaches located right off of North Shore Road. Parking was plentiful, and we had no problem finding a space. After you park, walk a few minutes along a path right to the beach. 

Cinnamon Bay Beach parking lot

Cinnamon Bay Beach parking lot

St. John USVI Cinnamon Bay Beach

Right side of Cinnamon Bay Beach (this is the entry point to snorkeling out to the Cay)

Cinnamon Bay Beach

Left side of Cinnamon Bay Beach

WHERE TO SNORKEL 

Cinnamon Cay is located about 100 yards off the shore. We enjoyed excellent snorkeling around this cay. Be aware the water can get rough along the far side of the Cay due to exposure to the wind. 

There is also supposed to be excellent snorkeling on the eastern (right) side of the beach as you face the water, but we did not have time to snorkel there.

In addition, if you are up for a short hike to Little Cinnamon Beach, you can snorkel to a small plane wreckage but I heard it is not too impressive. 

Map of where to snorkel at the Cinnamon Bay beach in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Cinnamon Bay Beach 

ENTRY

With soft sand and a shallow entry, entry is easy and straight forward. 

MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the quality of snorkeling here. I was not expecting much, but there was quite a bit of beautiful coral and Caribbean fish. The highlight was seeing a lemon shark. As soon as we spotted him, he did not stick around for long and quickly swam away as we approached.

Sergeant major at Cinnamon Bay in St. John USVI

Sergeant major and school of French grunt fish at Cinnamon Bay in St John USVI

DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

45 minutes

08- St John Snorkeling Spot: Blue Cobblestone Beach

SNORKEL RATING

1 out of 5 snorkel icons

HOW TO GET THERE 

This beach was part of our hike to Ram Head. Park in the Salt Pond Bay Beach parking lot. After you hike the dirt path to Salt Pond Bay Beach, walk all the way to the far left of Salt Pond Bay Beach and follow the trail along the shoreline. The trail eventually cuts inland over a few hills before it dumps you onto Blue Cobblestone Beach. 

Ram Head hiking trail in St. John USVI

Ram Head hiking trail will lead to Blue Cobblestone Beach

Blue Cobblestone Beach in St. John USVI

Blue Cobblestone Beach

WHERE TO SNORKEL 

We snorkeled along the rocks on the right side of the beach as you face the water. Although we did not do it, you could technically swim all the way over back to Salt Pond Bay Beach. That is a long swim though, and the current can be strong. 

Map of where to snorkel at the Blue Cobblestone in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Blue Cobblestone

ENTRY

Entry is not easy. There are a lot of rocks to navigate over and sea urchins to avoid. 

MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

We saw patches of coral here and there with sporadic Caribbean fish sightings. 

Blue tang at Blue Cobblestone in St. John USVI

Blue tang at Blue Cobblestone in St John USVI

DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

40 minutes 

09- St John Snorkeling Spot: Little Lameshur Bay Beach

SNORKEL RATING

4 out of 5 snorkel icon

HOW TO GET THERE

Take Route 107 and go PAST Salt Pond Bay Beach. Eventually, you reach a sign that states “no outlet.” This is the end of the paved road. Continue driving on the bumpy, gravely, potholed road to reach the two Lameshur Bays. I would not attempt this road after a lot of rain.

Drive PAST the Greater Lameshur Bay to reach Little Lameshur Bay Beach. There was plenty of parking when we went.

Because it is off-the-beaten-path, this beach does not appear to get much use. You can see the beach right from the parking lot. No hike required.

Driving in a Jeep to Little Lameshur Bay in St. John USVI

This is why you need a Jeep!

Little Lameshur Bay parking lot in St. John USVI

Little Lameshur Bay parking lot

Little Lameshur Bay Beach St. John USVI

Little Lameshur Bay Beach 

WHERE TO SNORKEL 

As you face the water, snorkel to the left out to Yawzi Point. The farther you get out to the point, the more challenging it will become. Do not overestimate your swimming ability. I was thankful I wore my snorkel vest for this snorkeling adventure because it was choppy right at the point.

Map of where to snorkel at the Little Lameshur Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Little Lameshur Bay Beach 

ENTRY

Access is easy due to the sandy bottom and shallow, calm entry. There is a little bit of a pebbly transition right at the shoreline.

MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

There are patches of seagrass when you enter, so you may see some turtles and rays although we did not see any when we went. 

The snorkeling is great along the reef on the left side (as you face the water). There are many deep water crevices and canyons to explore. There were plenty of beautiful tropical fish including some adorable balloonfish (aka pufferfish or porcupine fish) with their wide-spread big eyes and half-smiling mouths. I have never seen one “puff out” but these cute little fish can take in water to make their bodies (and long spines) puff out if they feel threatened. 

Porcupine fish at Little Lameshur Bay in St. John USVI

Porcupine fish at Little Lameshur Bay in St John USVI

Flamingo tongue snail at Little Lameshur Bay in St. John USVI

Flamingo tongue snail at Little Lameshur Bay in St John USVI. My husband is awesome at picking out the little creatures! 

Brain coral, soft coral, and sea fans at Little Lameshur Bay in St. John USVI

Brain coral, soft coral, and sea fans at Little Lameshur Bay in St John USVI

DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

1.5 hours

10- St John Snorkeling Spot: Grootpan Bay

SNORKEL RATING

4 out of 5 snorkel icon

HOW TO GET THERE

Download an offline St. John USVI map on Google Maps ahead of time.

Getting to Grootpan Bay Beach is an adventure and can be confusing if you do not know where you are going ahead of time. Drive past the parking lot for Salt Pond Bay Beach and take your second left. You will come to several splits in the poorly maintained road. Using the offline map, you should be able to continue to navigate your way over to Grootpan. 

Make sure you do NOT end up in Kiddel Bay. If you try to park there, you will be trespassing across private property to get to the beach. 

Road to Grootpan in St. John USVI

Be prepared for a bumpy ride to Grootpan!

Grootpan Bay Beach parking lot in St. John USVI

Grootpan Bay Beach parking lot

Grootpan Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Grootpan Bay Beach

WHERE TO SNORKEL 

The best snorkeling is on the left side of Grootpan Bay as you face the water. Snorkel around the point to Kiddel Bay but only if you are a confident swimmer. The waves can be rough. I always wear a snorkel vest. 

Map of where to snorkel at Grootpan Bay in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Grootpan Bay 

ENTRY

The access to the water is not easy but not hard. You will have to walk over the pebbly beach and avoid the sporadic sea urchins as you launch off into the water. 

MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

The marine life is incredible. We saw large schools of fish, beautiful hard and soft coral, and numerous colorful waving sea fans.

School of blue tang at Grootpan in St. John USVI

School of blue tang at Grootpan Bay in St John USVI

Gorgeous hard coral at Grootpan in St. John USVI

Gorgeous hard coral at Grootpan Bay in St John USVI

DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

1.5 hours 

11- St John Snorkeling Spot: Francis Bay Beach

SNORKEL RATING

4 out of 5 snorkel icon

HOW TO GET THERE

Take the North Shore Road towards Annaberg Sugar Plantation. At the end of the road at the split, take a left. If you take a right, you will reach the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins and the entrance to the trailhead for Waterlemon Cay. There is a large parking lot, but it fills up quickly. 

Francis Bay Beach parking lot in St. John USVI

Francis Bay Beach parking lot

Francis Bay Beach in St. John USVI

Francis Bay Beach

WHERE TO SNORKEL

There are also some patches of reef on both sides of the bay, but the right side of the beach (as you face the water) is supposed to be slightly better and better suited for advanced snorkelers.

Map of where to snorkel at the Francis Bay beach in St. John USVI

Where to snorkel at Francis Bay

ENTRY

Entry is easy with calm waters and a sandy bottom.

MARINE LIFE WE SAW 

Turtles, turtles, and more turtles! We saw so many turtles I lost count. I could spend hours swimming with these adorable guys. We also saw a few stingrays. 

We snorkeled on the right side of the bay as you face the water out towards Mary’s Point and saw beautiful coral outcroppings, schools of tropical fish, and even a lionfish.  

Fish at Francis Bay in St. John USVI

Vibrant coral at Francis Bay in St John USVI

Stingray at Francis Bay in St. John USVI

Stingray at Francis Bay in St John USVI

Turtle at Francis Bay in St. John USVI

Snorkeling with turtles at Francis Bay in St John USVI

DURATION OF OUR SNORKELING

2 hours

Snorkeling Gear 

When I first started to snorkel almost a decade ago, I would rent basic gear from a local shop. My mask would fog, and I would get a bunch of water in my snorkel. This created an incredibly frustrating experience.

Once I was properly fitted with the correct snorkeling gear that actually fit my face and feet, a whole new underwater world opened up to me. I can now spend hours in the water following tropical fish and swimming alongside turtles. I cannot stress this enough … invest in good snorkeling gear! 

Check out my Top 10 Snorkeling Gear Items I always bring on our trips now.

Snorkeling Gear Isaacs Bay St. Croix

My snorkeling gear 

 Top 11 Snorkel Tips

R

Find the right mask for the shape of your face.

R

Use reef-safe sunscreen like my favorite called Colorscience Sunforgettable Total Protection Sport Stick.

R

Do not step on the coral.

R

Do not feed the fish.

R

Always snorkel with someone.

R

Know your surroundings (currents, wind, where your buddy is, etc.).

R

Do not overestimate your swimming ability. I would highly advise a snorkel vest if you are not a strong swimmer like me.

R

Respect other snorkeler’s personal space. The worst is when a snorkeler’s fins hit you in the face because of their lack of awareness of what is around them.

R

Bring diluted baby shampoo to help keep your mask clear.

R

Pick sunny calm days to snorkel to really see the coral and fish.

R

Bring a few gallons of water for the ride, which work great for rinsing all the sand off after you snorkel.

Gallons of water to rinse off after snorkeling

A few gallons of water work great for rinsing off all that sand. 

 Final Thoughts

The snorkeling in St John USVI surprised me. It was better than I was expecting. What I loved about snorkeling in St John was that all of our snorkeling spots could be accessed from the beach. No need to hire a boat or join a tour! Overall, I would rate St John USVI as a whole as 4/5 snorkels. 

By the way, if you are still in the planning process for your U.S. Virgin Island trip, check out my travel guide on Where to Stay, Play, and Eat in St John.

If you are looking to piece together all that St John has to offer, check out my ultimate itinerary below. 

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Any other awesome St John snorkeling spots that you would recommend?

Let me know in the comments below!

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